Ever since the news of the Snowden leaks first broke in June, both the United States Congress and the people they claim to represent have been in an uproar over the NSA’s secretive PRISM and MUSCULAR data collection programs. These efforts went unreported for the nearly 10 years they’ve been in widespread operation, and although the tech companies which had their backdoors repeatedly violated without consent (read: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) have been quite vocal about their opposition to the programs, the other side of the equation — the telecoms, have remained eerily, and perhaps predictably, silent on the matter.
Really, not even a peep. The very first news we ever received out of the whistleblower’s camp was a series of PowerPoint presentations, pointing to Verizon as one of the most complicit members of this new mass-surveillance machine that had been slowly but steadily erected over the past several decades. When the six largest technology companies in the country approached the Senate with a letter requesting they put a stop to the rogue agency’s out-of-control behavior, the telcos refused, even going as far to hire a team of lobbyists and copyright activists to cover any tracks their mud might leave trudged around in the House of Representatives.
Luckily, this is the exact kind of situation the ACLU was founded for, and they’ve already begun drafting a shareholder proposal to AT&T and Verizon which would require them to finally break their silence and answer the many, many questions the public and their leaders have about cooperation and coordination with the NSA, CIA, and FBI.
Privacy is fundamental to democracy and free expression — and transparency is essential if individuals and businesses are to make informed decisions regarding their personal information. AT&T and Verizon must comply with legal obligations imposed by the Patriot Act and other laws. But these companies have no good excuse for staying silent and failing to provide information about how often customer information is being shared with the government. To the contrary, staying silent as other industry leaders release transparency reports and take steps to reinforce a genuine commitment to privacy, makes it appear that these companies have something to hide and presents serious financial and reputational risks.
Whatever the eventual outcome of these likely length proceedings, it’s clear that if we want to remain safe and under the radar of these immense data collection programs, we must stay vigilant in the face of unwavering corporate lawyers, unflinching agency chiefs, and incapable members of Congress who are just now realizing the scope of the monster they helped to create.
Make sure that dial is tuned to VPNCreative for all the latest updates on the Snowden leaks, and keep fighting the good fight privacy warriors!